Baby it's time for fireworks! Light up the grill, watch the night sky and don't forget to protect your ears – the 4th of July is one of America's most raucous and cacophonous holidays, and this year's crop of celebratory revels are next-level.

From monumental events and big-city barges to wild-west rodeos, here are the best places to rock US Independence Day in 2024.

Sunset over Mount Rushmore Memorial
Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota, ready to be lit up to mark Independence Day  

1. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Go for historical re-enactments

A 4th of July celebration with no fireworks? For many, that is a welcome alternative given the stream of loud explosive sounds that accompany the tradition. For those averse to the intensity of pyrotechnic displays, consider visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota for a 4th of July experience like no other. Want to shake hands with the presidents? Re-enactors will be on hand portraying the four presidents on the sculpture (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt). On July 3, the re-enactors will stage a press conference in the Carvers’ Marketplace. And yes, you can even ask a question!

Over July 3 and 4, the faux former presidents will be on hand to mix and mingle with visitors and sign autographs. On both nights at 9pm, enjoy the traditional sculpture lighting ceremony from the park's amphitheater, accompanied by more music and performances.

Local tip: Note that while accessing the park is free, you do have to pay to park.

New York City skyline (with the Empire State Building) at night with fireworks in the sky on the Fourth of July.
Celebrate the Fourth of July in NYC © Alex Llobet / Shutterstock

2. New York City, New York

Go for a dazzling choice of celebrations including fireworks

The home of Lady Liberty goes all out for America's birthday with events scattered around NYC's five boroughs. In Brooklyn, the nation's bravest bellies gather at Coney Island for Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog-Eating Contest, followed by a Cyclones baseball game and an evening fireworks show. In Staten Island, the tiny town of Travis dons stars and stripes for a historic parade dating back to 1911.

But nothing holds a candle to Macy's Fourth of July Spectacular — one of the country's biggest pyrotechnic performances. The event begins around 9.30pm, with over 65,000 shells launching from five barges on the Hudson River.

Local tip: Historically, the Macy's fireworks show has been on the East River, so if you watch it annually, you'll have to change your viewing spot this year. To see the show from Manhattan, head west between 14th and 34th streets. Also, watch out for when Macy's announces prime viewing locations soon.

3. Huntington Beach, California

Go for sunshine, a fun run, and fireworks over the ocean

When the surf capital of SoCal threw its first Fourth of July fête in 1904, there were roughly 50,000 attendees. Now, 500,000 people flock to this sunny Los Angeles suburb to participate in what's become the largest Independence Day shindig west of the Mississippi

Visitors can take part in four days of events including an all-American 5K city to surf race (there's a kids fun run too), a float-filled parade along historic Main Street, and the Pier Plaza Festival, featuring live entertainment, amusement rides, and tasty treat from an array of food vendors. The carnival climaxes on July 4th, when fireworks light up the night sky over Huntington Beach Pier at 9pm.

Planning tip: If you want a guaranteed spot to see the fireworks over the ocean, you can reserve an early bird ticket in advance for $42.

Horse drawn carriage tours in British Colony in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.
Head to Colonial Williamsburg to celebrate the holiday © jiawangkun / Shutterstock

4. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Go to be transported to yesteryear with patriotic sing-a-longs

July 4th is a celebration of American history, and no place brings that history to life quite like Colonial Williamsburg — an authentic 18th-century town where re-enactors transport visitors back to the nation's earliest days. Start your morning listening to Thomas Jefferson read the Declaration of Independence from the Capitol building's West Balcony, then take the Freedom's Paradox tour to investigate the contradiction of American liberation and slavery. 

At 8pm, join the crowds at Palace Green for Lights of Freedom. The concert features American marching music, a patriotic sing-a-long, and selections from George Frideric Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks — a pitch-perfect accompaniment when actual fireworks go off at 9.30pm. Palace Green and Market Square are the best spots to see the kaleidoscopic spectacle.

Planning tip: Admission is free but book a ticket in advance.

Woman carrying American flag on horseback at rodeo
Jackson Hole serves up Americana like nowhere else © Mark Read / Lonely Planet

5. Jackson Hole, Wyoming 

Go for Americana, a rodeo, and fireworks over the mountains

Scenic Jackson Hole serves up Wild West Americana ideal for July 4th celebrations. The annual jamboree starts with a community pancake breakfast hosted in Town Square. A parade packed with horses, clowns and all the trappings of a John Wayne blockbuster takes off afterward, followed by a shootout reenactment.

If you're crazed for more cowboy culture, cap the evening with an old-school rodeo at the Teton County Fairgrounds. While evening fireworks at Teton Village and Snow King Mountain are stunning (held on July 3 and 4), nothing beats the sun setting behind the Grand Tetons' white-capped peaks. It's arguably the nation's most magnificent light show. 

6. Seward, Alaska 

Go for extreme sports 

Seward's fireworks don't erupt until 12.01am because of Alaska's midnight sun, and the late-night display is almost an afterthought. In this tiny port town, the main event is the Mount Marathon Race, founded in 1915.

Every year, Seward's population balloons from 3,000 to 30,000 as spectators gather to gawk at the race, dubbed the world's most challenging 5K. Join the crowd as madcap adventurers ascend and descend a 3,022-foot peak above Resurrection Bay in the hopes of becoming the marathon's winner. The trek — which scrambles over thick roots, loose shale, and muddy waterfalls — isn't for the faint of heart, but those who compete earn a lifetime of bragging rights. 

Abraham Lincoln rides a float in the Independence Day Parade as it makes its way along Market St in Philadelphia,
An actor dresses as Abraham Lincoln for the Independence Day Parade in Philadelphia

7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Go for celebratory events all month, including an outdoor concert

The City of Brotherly Love is where America's forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence; you better believe locals take the Fourth of July seriously. The events begin on June 19th, with a series of free museum days, outdoor films and live performances follow, leading to a holiday weekend brimming with national pride. 

On July 2, join a free event at Carpenters’ Hall, the National Historic Landmark home of the First Continental Congress, which in 1774 laid the foundation for American independence (making this it's 250th birthday). On July 4th, check out the “Salute To Independence Day Parade” starting at 11am. At 7pm, the Parkway turns into an outdoor concert featuring Ne-Yo and Kesha in 2024, followed by (you guessed it) fireworks. 

8. Aptos, California

Go for small-town America vibes with the world's shortest parade

If you're looking for a kitschy way to celebrate small-town America, look no further than Aptos — a sleepy hamlet on the Monterey Bay known for hosting the world's shortest parade

The route might be a mere 0.6 miles, but don't let the size fool you — this unassuming town has major stamina. Thousands of spectators visit every year, and the march lasts for a couple of hours. The festivities kick off on Soquel Drive and State Park Drive at 10am. After the parade, make your way to Aptos Village Park, where locals lounge around ten grassy acres and celebrate all afternoon. 

Cowboy boots on sale in downtown Nashville.
Celebrate the holiday with a pair of US-flag themed cowboy boots in Nashville © Pez Photography / Alamy

9. Nashville, Tennessee

Go for music, from American gospel to symphony and everything in between

Music City, USA, lives up to its nickname with an action-packed holiday featuring performances by world-class musicians. ​​​​​​Chris Young headlines Let Freedom Sing! Music City ​​​​​​in Downtown Nashville, along with performances by YOLA, Girl Named Tom and American gospel singer Blessing Offor – and more. Head to the Food Truck Court on Rep. John Lewis Way at 5th street to taste some of the city's sweetest treats, including Moosic City ice cream, Tennessee Cobbler Co., and Kona Ice. This 4th of July also expect one of the largest fireworks shows in country, which synchronizes its pyrotechnics to a live performance by the Grammy-award winning Nashville Symphony. 

10. Addison, Texas 

Go for the biggest pyro-palooza fireworks display

3500 pounds of fireworks. 500,000 spectators. Everything really is bigger in Texas — particularly in this suburb north of Dallas. On July 3rd, Addison hosts Kaboom Town! — a half-hour pyro-palooza that sets the sky ablaze. 

Restaurants and hotels host watch parties for out-of-towners, and the rocket's red glare is visible from almost anywhere. If you attend, be sure to stretch your neck and shoulders beforehand. A patriotic airshow precedes the main event, meaning you'll be craning your neck sky-high for most of the night. 

Fourth of July Fireworks 2012 in Boston over the Charles River with kayaks and boats in the water.
See the Harborfest fireworks in Boston this year © JesseJamesPhotography / Getty Images

11. Boston, Massachusetts

Go for educational Independence Day activities

Walk Boston's cobblestone streets, and you can't help running into Revolutionary War-era relics like Bunker Hill and the resting place of Paul Revere. This means Beantown gets a lot of 4th of July hype — and the city lives up to expectations. 

The events begin on June 30 at Downtown Crossing (DTX), where visitors can peruse an Arts and Crafts market, meet re-enactors and staff from the USS Constitution (the world's oldest floating ship), and enjoy music from the 215th Army Band. The DTX party continues on July 1st with free performances leading to the Harborfest fireworks at 9pm. 

On July 4th, follow a brief parade from City Hall Plaza to the Old State House (built in 1713), where there's a reading of the Declaration of Independence. The day ends with the Boston Pops' annual Fourth of July Spectacular, at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade. Stick around for the rousing rendition of the 1812 Overture as cannons and fireworks light up the city. 

12. Fire Island Pines, New York 

Go for a flamboyant Pride-infused party

Independence Day on Fire Island is a drag. Every summer, queens and kings of all kinds catch a ferry from Cherry Grove to the Pines, two LGBTQI+ havens off the coast of Long Island. The event, the Invasion of the Pines, commemorates the summer of 1976, when a Pines restaurant refused to serve a Cherry Grove drag queen because of their outfit. On July 4th, a group of queens "invaded" the Pines in protest, only to be met with free drinks and admiration. 

Today, hundreds of flamboyantly-dressed revelers make the same journey. Once they arrive at the Pines Marina, they strut down a red carpet and into the open arms of friendly onlookers. When the runway ends, the party continues at bars lining Harbor Walk. The event might not celebrate Independence Day specifically, but it certainly celebrates American liberation.

This article was first published Jul 2, 2019 and updated Jun 17, 2024.

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